Spiritual Gifts

Standard

Peppermint Patty is talking to Charlie Brown and she says, “My Uncle has always wanted to play the violin. Last week he went down to a music store, and bought one. Then he went to a concert to watch the violinists play to see how they did it. Then he went home, picked up his new violin and tried it himself. He couldn’t play at all! Next time he goes to a concert, he says he’s going to try sitting closer!

Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability. The Disciples have been with Jesus for three years. During those three years, they have observed many things. The blind have been healed. The lame walk. They have watched as Jesus walked on the waters of the sea. They have observed His incredible wisdom. They followed His instructions and took coins out of the mouth of a fish. Are they ready to be alone? We know that God had promised to always be with them. … I am with you always, to the close of the age.” But now He was ascending into Heaven, how could that be? But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. This Counselor or Comforter, was the Holy Spirit. While Jesus would not be here in human form, He would still be present in the form of God. The Holy Spirit.

The Jewish calendar was filled with special occasions. About the time of Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven came the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was the beginning of the harvest. After 49 days (a week of weeks) came the Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost was when the harvest officially ended. Pentecost marked the end!

The Day of Pentecost that year, came in great power. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. The Disciples and the Church were no longer alone!

Sometimes your medicine bottle has on it, “Shake well before using.” That is what God has to do with some of His people. He has to shake them well before they are ever useable. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee.”

Ever since that day of Pentecost we have asked the question, “What do we do with the Holy Spirit?” There are many, many gifts of the Holy Spirit. Our lesson in Corinthians talks about nine (9) spiritual gifts. Gifts that are not individual but gifts to the Church. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discernment, tongues, and interpretation) In Ephesians, Paul talks about five (5) gifts of the ministry. It was he who gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers to prepare God’s people for works of service….There are some twenty-five (25) other gifts talked about in scripture. These gifts, are the living presence of God in the community of faith.

All who are Christians have access to these gifts. Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Every believer has a gift and is expected to function in the body of Christ.

To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. In this story the talents can be gifts, spiritual gifts, ministry gifts, etc. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more.

So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. “The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.
“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!

We have very little to do with how much ability we’ve got, but with what we do with what we have. The person with great talent is apt to be puffed up, and the person with little talent is too humiliated. A few years ago when we had the concert series, we had some great talent that came through our worship services. One of those, a very gifted man, was also one of the most arrogant people I have ever met. The gift is only given when we can handle the gift.

“Our part is to be faithful”, doing the level best with every bit and scrap.

My Father

Standard

“Hubris” is a very important Biblical word denoting an exaggerated self-confidence akin to arrogance. In the Garden of Eden story, all Adam and Eve had to do to stay in Paradise was to let God be God. And it was the one thing they would not do. They wanted to trust in their own resources, apart from God. As a result, they could no longer remain in the Garden. They were estranged from God. Hubris: the pride of not letting God be God!

This is not an easy lesson for a society in which a “self-made man” or a “self-made woman” is idealized. A man brought his boss home for dinner for the first time.
The boss was very blustery, very arrogant, very dominating! The little boy in the family stared at his father’s boss for most of the evening, but did not say anything. Finally, the boss asked the little boy, “Why do you keep looking at me like that, sonny?” The little boy answered, “My daddy says you are a self-made man.” The boss beamed and proudly admitted that indeed he was a self-made man. The little boy said, “Well, if you are a self-made man, why did you make yourself like that?”

My children once asked, “If you knew that momma was going to get cancer and die so young would you have married her?” My response? “In a heart beat!” I have known since my teenage years what I wanted in life. The ministry has been my dream. I have never questioned that calling. There have been some difficult years in ministry, but I look back with only joy over those years. As fun and as fulfilling as ministry has been and remains in my life, it is nothing compared to my family. Even the pain of Vickie’s death doesn’t erase the happiness of 18 years of marriage. And of all of those planned things in my life, the one thing that has been one of the greatest joys has been being a father.

Fatherhood is changing, and I am excited to see the change come. The younger generation of fathers are taking a much more active role as a parent. While fathers have always bonded with their children, the bonding is now even stronger. It is that bonding that makes life worthwhile. When Brooks was two I was home alone watching her and she ate some dirt out of a flower pot, her face swelled. I called the doctor and yelled at the nurse who wouldn’t seem to put me through to the doctor. The words of the doctor, “Mr. McConnell, it looks worse than it really is.”
Jonathan in his mid teenage years was asserting his manhood. I would get ready to leave in the morning and say, “Aren’t you going to kiss me goodbye?” He would respond by saying, “Dad, now think about this.” Yet, I noticed as I put them on the airplane to fly to their grandfather’s for a visit that there were tiers in Brooks’ eyes and even Jonathan gave me a hug without me asking.

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” In many respects I was lucky growing up because I was exposed to two fathers. The first was my birth father, who was never really a father. A man who was self-centered and ungiving. A man who really wasn’t interested in family or parenting. My second father was my adoptive father, who really wanted me. A man who even though he had faults, was loving and caring. A man who tried in the short time that he had me to instill some important principles in me. Which one do you think was really my father? Note the one who gave me birth. The one who gave me his love.

Father has very little to do with who gives birth, but everything with who parents.
Jesus was very lucky because He had two fathers and earthy father who taught Him how to be a man, and a Heavenly Father who taught Him how to be God.

Our scripture text has Jesus in the garden in those final hours. He is God, so He knows what is ahead for Him – He must die. The disciples that He has taken with Him to the garden aren’t very much comfort, they keep falling asleep. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
“My Father” The Greek word, “Pater.” The importance of “Pater” is that it is not the biological word for father. It is the word for nourisher, protector and upholder.

I like that – that is what a father (a real father) is! One that nourishes. One that protects. One that upholds.

Harvard University sociologists Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck developed a test (that proved to be ninety percent accurate) to determine whether or not five-and six-year-olds would become delinquent. They discovered that the four primary factors necessary to prevent delinquency are: A father’s firm, fair, and consistent discipline; a mother’s supervision and companionship; the parent’s demonstrated affection for each other and for the children the family spending time together in activities where all participated.

The role of the father is only effective if the father is the nourisher, protector and upholder. I am sure you read in the paper as I did about a certain denomination that is wanting the wife to be submissive. Family life isn’t about authority and it is certainly not about power. It is about who is doing the job. And frankly men, women have carried the burden, far too long.

Being a man, is being responsible. And responsibility begins at home!

Living Single

Standard

I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife (1 Corinthians 7:7-11)

As Vickie went through the final stages of her illness, one of the thoughts that crossed my mind, was the reality of being single again. Singleness, I felt I could handle, because after all, I was single before I got married. But this time was different, more than just the difference of 20 years. This time I would have two children, two teenage children, to rear. Things are quite different: The cooking isn’t as good as it used to be, but none of the three of us seem to be starving. Because of my time constraints, I have my little routines, for getting household chores done. Friday mornings I put the bed linens in the laundry and clean linen is laid on each bed for the kids to put on. And without fail, Jonathan will complain that his bed didn’t need changing. My philosophy, after a week it gets washed whether it needs it or not. Brooks, complains that there are no females round the house to understand, and I remind her that Short Stuff (our dog) is a lady, and she can talk to her.

There was a young man who took a short cut home late one night-through the cemetery. And he fell in an open grave. He called, he tried to climb out. To no avail. There was no one around to hear his cries or lend a hand. So he settled down for the night in a corner of the darkened grave to await morning. A little while later another person came the same route through the cemetery, taking the same short cut home and fell in the same grave, and started clawing and shouting and trying to get out just as the first had done. Suddenly, the second fellow heard a voice out of the dark corner of the grave saying, “You can’t get out of here.” But he did!

We can do, whatever we put our hearts and mind too.

It is easy to look at the writings of Paul and to know that Paul prefers all Christians to be single. I wish that all men were as I am. It wasn’t that Paul had anything against marriage. Paul just wanted everyone to give undivided attention to the Church and to their relationship with God. When we look at the inner circle around Jesus, everyone of them was single. When Jesus came by the Sea of Galilee and invited Peter, Andrew, James and John to be disciples. Four single fisherman? Must be something wrong with them. Some were widowed, others never married. Peter had been married because Jesus healed his mother-in-law. Philip had been married because he had daughters who were prophetesses. We know that Paul at one time had been married because he was a member of the Ruling Council. But, by the time that Jesus calls, they are all single and able to drop everything and follow Jesus.

The number of single people in our society is increasing. Young people are waiting longer to get married. Widowed people are living longer. And some people are opting to never marry.

This is a problem, because our society has a prejudice to being single. unfortunately, I think that some of the difficulty arises from misunderstanding God’s word. The Christian thing is to be married, that is why churches are so family oriented. But God doesn’t care whether you are married or single. With God, it is an individual relationship.

Visiting one time in a home where the husband had died, I visited with the wife and her two married children. One daughter was married to a man who was an Elder in a very conservative congregation. When I arrived at the home, an Elder from our congregation was leaving after paying his respects. He was a young man about 30 and was married, but had no children. The son-in-law, took me to task, about why this man could be justified as an Elder in the church. He is much to young, 30. While married, he has no children. He doesn’t qualify to lead the church. My simple response was, “I hope Jesus doesn’t find out that He is not qualified to lead the Church.”

It is alright to be single. There is nothing morally unacceptable about being single. It doesn’t make you a homosexual. It doesn’t mean that you are so ugly no one wants you. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong.

It takes a special person to live single just as it takes a special person to live married. Loneliness can be a problem, but many singles have a great support group of friends who are generally single like themselves. Even with children, a single parent gets lonely and needs the companionship of other adults. This is where the church is very important to the single person. Parents Without Partners, One Parent Families, etc. Paul mixed no easiness on the issue of sex. You’re not married – no sex. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

The key I think is for society to stop making single people feel like second class citizens.

God’s Allowance

Standard

Here is a voice mail greeting by a college student who developed a somewhat inconsistent view of stewardship: “Hi. This is John. If you are the phone company, I already sent the money. If you are my parents, please send money. If you are my financial aid institution, you didn’t lend me enough money. If you are my friends, you owe me money. If you are a female, don’t worry, I have plenty of money.”

In a Wizard Of Id comic, a couple greets a Friar Tuck-type outside the front doors of the Church. The wife says to the Friar, “I apologize for my baby’s crying in church…she’s teething.” The Friar replies, “No problem…but why was your husband crying?” The wife responds, “He’s TITHING!”

Annually, Americans give 19.6 billion to churches. Isn’t that wonderful? As a nation that we are so generous as to give 19.6 billion! That is tempered by the fact that we spend 26.6 billion on lottery tickets each year. A lot of people are willing to give God credit, but so few ever give Him cash.

Jesus tells this story, “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. The noble man is God. He has come and served and has now taken his proper place. “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ A minas was the money of that time and is worth about $15.00. $15.00 in that day was a lot of money. In scripture, money and talent are interchangeable. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’

“He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
“The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them– bring them here and kill them in front of me.'”

The lesson that we have had the most difficult time with is that God owns everything! He is King and Lord! Ever read bumper stickers? “God loves a cheerful giver, but he will also take money from a grouch.” There is no other topic in all the New Testament that Jesus spent more time on than stewardship. There is no other topic in the New Testament that we turn a deaf ear to, than stewardship.

You remember Jack Benny? He always did the same routine over and over again.
A robber comes up to him and says, “Your money or your life?” There is no answer. Then the question again: “Your money or your life?” Benny still does not say anything. The robber says it a third time: “Your money or your life?” Jack Benny finally answers: “I’m thinking, I’m thinking.” That is what stewardship is all about. It’s trying to get you to think about your money or your life. It wants you to ask the question. Does Jesus really want just my money, or does He want my life? The church is not an organization with supporters and benefactors. The church is to be a body of disciples. It is not an organization you give dues to. It’s a cause you give your life to. You see, we have as Disciples never gotten the right perspective! It is not that the Church needs our money. It is that we need to give to the Church.

Jesus tells another parable, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

God can give Himself to us only in the measure in which we give ourselves to him.

The pastor was visiting one of his congregants who lay dying in the hospital. The pastor leaned over the bed and asked the man, “Is there anything I can do to ease your pain; do you have any final requests, my beloved friend?” The man tried to prop himself up but could not do so. As the dying man fell back to his bed, he gasped, “Yes, Pastor, there is one thing you could do; could you please stop sending these pledge envelopes?”

It has never been about what we need to support the budget. It has never been about what it takes to build an addition onto this facility. It has never been about what it will cost to get the word of God to people who have never hear it. It is all about that a gracious and generous God has given us an allowance and the question faces us, are we faithful?

The Apostle Paul understood the project of trying to raise money for the church in Jerusalem. To do so he did not print up any raffle tickets or try to sell a pie or a picnic basket. He did not buy any fish to fry or organize bingo games. When there was a need, Paul wrote to the churches and asked them to give from what they had, to share from their leanness and their abundance.

The “tithe” (1/10 of our income) is the standard God established. It has never changed. To my knowledge there are no loopholes to this issue. It is the same standard in the New Testament as the Old. The “offering” was any and everything above and beyond the tithe. No where does God ever justify someone who gave less than a tithe. But everywhere there is praise for the one that gives everything.

Millard Fuller was a millionaire by the age of twenty-nine. As such, he could buy his wife “everything” he thought she possibly could want. But one day he came home to discover that she had left him. Millard went after her. He caught up with her on a Saturday night in a hotel in New York City. They talked into the wee hours of the next morning as she poured out her heart and made him see that she wasn’t interested in the things he was buying her. Her heart was empty and her spirit was burned out, she explained. She was dead inside and she wanted to live again. Kneeling at their bedside in that hotel room, Millard and Linda made a radical decision. They decided to sell everything they had and dedicate themselves to serving poor people and to working for justice for the oppressed. The next day being Sunday, they found a church and went there to worship and thank God for their new beginning. They hunted up the minister, and told him about what had happened to them and the decision they had made. To their surprise, the minister told them that such a radical decision was not really necessary. “He told us that it was not necessary for us to give up everything,” Millard said. “He just didn’t understand that we weren’t giving up money and the things that money could buy. We were giving up a whole way of life that was killing us.” Millard and Linda Fuller were the founders of HABITAT FOR HUMANITY.

It happened last Saturday evening. Darkness had settled over Wichita. It was another of those warm, cloudless nights. Too warm for some to sleep – a good time to roam; nothing else to do. “Mom or Pop don’t care (I wish they did). Let’s go.”
“Hey, there’s a church. It’s dark, no one around. Let’s see if a door is open. Nope! How about a window? Crash!!! Yep, one’s open now. The pastor’s desk was ransacked. The doors to the church office were pried open and ruined; the secretary’s desk and filing cabinets were hurriedly searched. This was discovered on Sunday morning. Someone robbed the Church! Was last week really any different from this Sunday? The sun was high. The sky was blue, fleecy clouds drifted by overhead. A perfect day for worship — and a robbery! The service began right on time — it was 10:45 a.m. sharp. We sang, we meditated, we prayed — and then it happened. The ushers passed the offering plate, I dropped my dollar in, and sent it on. There, I did it! “I” robbed God! The next morning…No one is aware of what I have done. No window broken, no doors pried open, no pillage occurred.
But, somebody will not hear the Gospel because a robbery took place yesterday in the sanctuary. ‘Sir, here is your dollar; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth.
I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ Lie! I just didn’t want to give it.

Do you tithe your allowance from God?